Every minute counts -- the Kenai Central High School girls soccer team can vouch for that one.
The Kardinals were able to score in the opening minute of each half Saturday to notch a 2-1 win over Homer in a Region III match at Kenai.
Saturday's win came a day after the Kardinals posted a well-executed 4-2 victory over the Wasilla Warriors.
The Kenai boys worked hard for their 1-0 win over the Mariners, a good result to finish up the weekend after dropping Friday's game against Wasilla 2-1.
Kirsten Ehrhardt put the Kenai girls on the board in the opening minute of the first half, floating a cross into the middle of the penalty area that carried into the back of the Homer net.
Homer equalized in the 14th minute, taking advantage of a misplayed ball in the Kenai penalty area. Fianna Condon was in position to place the shot past Kenai keeper Wendi Wiles.
Kenai's Karli Knudsen tangles with a trio of Mariners in front of the Homer goal Saturday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai girls were just as opportunistic, though, scrambling for the match winner in the opening minute of the second half. Jamie Montgomery launched a shot at the Homer net, which keeper Alex Drathman was able to knock down but couldn't smother. Jessi Reilly was on the spot in an instant to poke the ball into the net.
"In the first half, we weren't playing together," said Kenai's Rachel Knowles, "but in the second half, we got together quickly -- that's what helped us score that goal. A couple of us were down about the way we were playing, but we got positive really fast. That quick goal really got us moving again. It was exactly what we needed to get back into the game."
The Kardinals were able to hang on to that momentum through the second half, preventing the Mariners from tying up the match.
"The wind was definitely a factor. The team running into it looked tired," said Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen after his Kardinals had the wind at their backs through the second half. "In the second half, you could tell we were hungry for the net. That was a big decider for us -- keeping it in their half of the field."
The Mariners did have their chances, powered by Condon and Nikki Fry in the middle of the park.
"Nikki is a catalyst. She's always got her foot on the ball for us," Homer girls coach Mickey Todd said. "Our defense has been playing real well. With Alex Drathman in net, we've only given up five goals in seven games -- this was the first multi-goal game we've allowed."
Kenai's depth from front to back kept the Mariners from generating too many scoring chances, though.
"We've got a real solid defense, a real solid midfield and a real solid front line," Knowles said. "We're really lucky to have three strong lines."
Natalie Mills netted three goals on Friday to propel the Kardinals past Wasilla. Reilly also scored for the Kardinals.
"It was just like clockwork with everybody working together," Verkuilen said. "With not knowing the teams coming down here, you always wonder who's got what. If we had won one game, that would have been OK. Winning two would have been good, but winning three in a row -- I'm real thankful. ... What a blessing as a coach to have kids willing to give you everything they've got."
The Kenai boys put everything they had into their win over the Mariners. Greg Landua scored on a header with 18 minutes left in the match, nodding home a corner kick from J.D. Pault.
"It was a really nice corner kick. J.D. put it in exactly the right spot," Landua said. "We haven't spent any time at all on corner kicks (in practice). We've been concentrating on passing. We haven't spent a whole lot of time practicing finishing, and that's been a problem for us."
Homer keeper Aaron Smith added to Kenai's finishing problems with an excellent performance in the goal.
"Our man of the match was Aaron Smith," said Homer boys coach Ed Kelly.
The Mariners were able to put some excellent shots on net, but Ross Baldwin, making his first start in goal, was always in the right space at the right time to earn the shutout.
"Finishing has been a problem for us all season. We haven't really taken advantage of some of the chances we've gotten," Kelly said.
"Hats off to Ross Baldwin," Kenai boys coach David Landry said. "That allows the defense to be comfortable with what's going on in front of them.
"We're building a lot of offense from our defense."
Landry liked the one- and two-touch passing he saw through his midfield, and he was impressed with the ability Devon Anderson, Ryan Whiteley, Nick Barnes and Ben Haring showed off the bench.
"To be able to come in for that five- or 10-minute spurt -- it's inhuman in these conditions," Landry said.
The Kardinals, after battling back to knot their match with Wasilla at 1-1, were stuck with the Region III loss on Friday. Adrian Borchgrevink scored the Kardinals goal, assisted by Richard Alexander.
Saturday's win helped the Kardinals regain some momentum as they prepare for the final three games of the regular season.
"We're still on the right track," Landry said. "These guys are improving with every game."
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